Meet the Academy Award–win­ning makeup artist who trans­formed Robin Wil­liams into Mrs. Doubt­fire and El­iz­a­beth Banks into Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games.

Albuquerque Journal - Parade - - FRONT PAGE - By Pat Olsen

Her name may not be on the tip of your tongue, but you’ve likely seen Ve Neill’s work. She’s cre­ated many mem­o­rable char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing sev­eral for di­rec­tor Tim Bur­ton (page 12). Neill has been nom­i­nated for eight Academy Awards and has taken home three—for Beetle­juice, Mrs. Doubt­fire and Ed Wood (in which she turned Martin Lan­dau into hor­ror king Bela Lu­gosi). She’s a judge on Syfy’s Face Off, a pop­u­lar re­al­ity show that pits pros­thetic makeup artists against each other, and she teaches a mas­ter class on spe­cial­ef­fects makeup in Los An­ge­les. This year she was the makeup de­part­ment head on Pee-wee’s Big Hol­i­day and LBJ.

How did you break into movies as a makeup artist?

In the 1970s, when I started, I was do­ing spe­cial­ef­fect makeup when very few oth­ers were. There was a grow­ing need for this skill, so I was able to get my foot in the door. My first big movie was Star Trek: The Mo­tion Pic­ture. I was a Trekkie, so I thought that was cool.

How did you learn to ap­ply makeup?

I ba­si­cally taught my­self af­ter learn­ing a few things from a cou­ple of other makeup artists. We sucked up what­ever in­for­ma­tion we were able to find be­cause it was a se­cre­tive art back then. I also had ex­am­ples from the [leg­endary] work of peo­ple like John Cham­bers, who worked on Planet of the Apes, and Fred Phillips, who did the Star Trek TV se­ries.

What was the mo­ment when you felt you made it?

I don’t know that I ever thought that. We all have that anx­i­ety, the feel­ing that we’re never go­ing to work again. There’s so much com­pe­ti­tion. I felt grat­i­tude when I won my first Os­car [for Beetle­juice], but I won­dered if peo­ple might say, “She’s too ex­pen­sive now,” or “She’ll be too busy.” Suc­cess is a double-edged sword.

Who was the most dif­fi­cult char­ac­ter to make up?

Prob­a­bly Mrs. Doubt­fire. Cov­er­ing Robin Wil­liams’ face for that role re­quired 12 or 13 foam la­tex pieces that all had to over­lap. There couldn’t be even one cen­time­ter of his face show­ing or sweat bub­bles would ap­pear. If skin showed, I’d have to keep fill­ing in that one lit­tle area, and I did this ev­ery day of film­ing. I did the same makeup on him 53 times.

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